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Out with the new, in with the old

After two equally massive crashes last year wiped out every USF e-mail account, Academic Computing received new hardware late last semester to protect the roughly 76,000 WebMail accounts it manages.

But the new Dell hardware proved faulty, as the system suffered five small crashes within weeks of installation.

E-mail administrators, wary of recent major crashes, have now been forced to go back to the old hardware until the new hardware has been tested properly and becomes safe to use.

“The developers were baffled, we were baffled,” said Academic Computing Assistant Director Alex Campoe. “The conclusion was that although this was new, it still wasn’t working right.”

The problems have not been with the machines, but with storage space. To make up for that, WebMail has had to borrow space from Blackboard, Campoe said.

Administrators went back to the old system on Dec. 20 after the new hardware crashed for the fifth time in five days. No major problems have been reported since, Campoe said.

Reverting back to the old hardware may scare those who rely heavily on their USF e-mail account. On Nov. 21 last year, that server crashed, resulting in a short-term loss of all data and the permanent deletion of all mail received between 4 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

In December 2005, the server crashed again, with similar results.

Although he said anything is possible, Campoe said students, staff and faculty shouldn’t be worried.

“I’m pretty confident we won’t have those issues,” he said. “The old system is running fine.”

He said there was a major spike in usage Sunday at midnight. By 11 a.m. Monday, usage was as high as finals week last semester, with 806 people logged into their accounts simultaneously.

“There were only two errors today,” Campoe said. “And they were very minor.”

The start of a new semester has also added to the worries of another crash.

“At the start of any semester, everybody at Academic Computing is in a state of alert,” Campoe said.